Keke Palmer‘s directorial debut, which is her new short film/visual album, tells the story of her industry experience.
Amazon is celebrating Women’s History Month by highlighting women and their talents on different platforms the company offers its consumers. One of those women is critically acclaimed actress Palmer. She has a good-standing relationship with Amazon, and her podcast, Baby, This Is Keke Palmer, is available on Amazon Music. Her latest Amazon collaboration is a short film titled Big Boss, based on the Chicago native’s journey of her blossoming into her authentic self in the heavily male-dominated music industry that is often filled with of misogyny. Through self-love and resilience, she taps into her true power as a woman and music artist.
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“I’ve had nothing but great experiences working with Amazon, and I’ve worked with them from Audible to the podcast to now Amazon Music,” Palmer exclusively told Blavity in a recent interview. “I’m working with Prime, so I just think, again, it’s just about finding good partners, good collaborators and people that respect you and that believe in your vision. Amazon saw it, and they saw the vision and wanted to come on the journey with me. I think that is to be appreciated.”
Although the singer helmed scripted family sitcom Sportfans and the short film The Edible Always Wins, both available on her digital platform KeyTV, she shared that Big Boss showcases her as a director. In addition to her writing and producing the film, this was the first film she ever directed.
“It’s my directorial debut because even though it’s come out after those, I filmed it before. So, it’s definitely the first project that I wrote and put together and filmed. I put this together. I invested a hundred percent of my own money,” the Nope star said.
Her first time sitting in the director’s seat was a new venture, as she had to lead the cast and crew. Although anxious when the experience began, she found her groove and created a finished product she was proud of.
“I felt like it was definitely, like, nerve-wracking,” she said. “I felt like adrenaline [was] going the whole time. Like, I’ve never been on LSD or anything like that, but I felt like what I would imagine that to be. It kind of felt euphoric … I think is the word. I felt like this strange euphoria because I think it really is a great feeling to know you started something and you’re going through with it and finishing it. That’s really empowering.”
She came up with the title name because the story is about her taking charge of her career after discovering that she doesn’t need to follow the industry’s guidelines and society’s standards.
After all, she can take control of her career and make her dreams a reality, even if it may be a longer process.
“There is like a satirical element that I added to the film,” she said. “Even when you look at the opening, and I’m like, ‘written by, produced by … there is an element of satire to it just because I love that … that is very me.”
She continued, “Also, aside from me putting it together, from an emotional standpoint, it’s about my journey of stepping into that [boss energy] and realizing that that’s what it was gonna take. When you look at people that you admire, you assume they had it easy or this just happened for them. But anytime you see somebody that has made it, best believe there is a part of their story where they had to pull up their bootstraps and be the one to get it done.”
If you are wondering what category to place Big Boss under, it is a musical, as the singer flexes her vocals throughout the film to help tell her personal story of self-discovery.
“I would definitely consider it kind of like a musical. I think that’s really who I am. I’m a multifaceted performer and entertainer, and I think I do tell my stories with music,” she said. “I think that also comes from my love of classic films. I love Soul Food, The Wood and even Titanic. Back in the day, in the late ’90s and early 2000s, they had soundtracks that made you love the movie more. I think that there’s an element to that that I wanted to tap into with the film, just like these.”
Music artists that Palmer admired and the “fantasy” of what she saw for herself in music inspired the creative visuals, choreography, outfits and different eras presented in the film.
It’s an eccentric journey for viewers as she takes them on a ride of her evolution as a music artist and highlights influential moments of her life, like the motivation she got from watching 106 & Park on BET, who she thought she needed to be, her clubbing days, trying to make connections, and more.
“It’s different elements of me and my bag and how the music accompanies that,” she explained. “It gives us an opportunity to kind of explore the music in a unique and different way, based on the way I worked toward it at that particular moment. So, it’s just kind of like all the different facets of me and then the music being able to accompany that.”
There are many stories of famous and everyday women in different career fields who’ve encountered male peers that have used their position or connections as leverage. The #MeToo movement started in Hollywood to help blast this behavior. Palmer faced those same obstacles and had to cope with the harsh reality of the dark side of the music industry.
“It’s an extension of the #MeToo moment,” Palmer shared. “It was like I’m alone because the people that I’m trying to get support from don’t respect me, they don’t see me. We [women] all are in that same kind of boat trying to figure out how we are supposed to maneuver in a world like this. Whether they’re in suits or whether they’re in the studio or whether we’re in the club, it’s kind of like this world does not make it easy for us to be respected or to be seen outside of just being a vagina. That was a part of my experience, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.”
Throughout the film, she quotes scriptures from the Bible to showcase where she’s at on her timeline of growth. She credits her upbringing, family and faith for remaining steadfast during difficult times. Some of her family members also made guest appearances.
“I thought that was really cool. I definitely did have my mom and my dad and then Billy; they all kind of played themselves. Obviously, Tricky Stewart played himself as well, which I thought was kind of fun to have it like it’s real life, but also like not real life. And my parents both were actors, so it was cool having them in the movie,” she said.
She said she hopes this film will help others, especially women, remember to stay true to their core values and believe their dreams can come true with hard work, determination and perseverance.
“I think everything I do is to hopefully be of encouragement to the next person,” she added. “It’s meant to encourage and empower and let the next generation and even the current generation know I’ve been there, we’ve all been there, we’ve all experienced it, and there’s no shame in having hardships, trying to be all that you can be. I know that I’m proud of who I am and how I’ve gotten here. And so, it’s kind of more so saying like you can have it all and play by your own rules.”
The new mother also is excited that one day her son will see her work and hopefully be proud of all that she’s accomplished.
“I think also having a child, it puts things in perspective, meaning, you know, nothing really is the end of the world anymore outside of like your family,” she said. “I mean, I think I’ve always felt very close to my family, but now I’ve got my own personal family. It’s the epitome of ‘don’t sweat the small stuff.’ So, it’s made any of my personal pursuits, although they’re still important to me, not as intense or as worrisome because, at the end of the day, I got my family, and I know that everything’s gonna be good. Like I’m good; I have a purpose outside of, like, that.”
Palmer also dropped a new song, “Standards,” available on all streaming platforms, that’s essentially the anthem for the short film, which is out now for a limited time on Amazon Music.